The surname Ó Gráda means descendant of the noble, or illustrious
one, from the old Irish noun gráda meaning ranked or distinguished,
upon which modern Irish gradam is also based. The name has particular
connections with the ancient kingdom of Dál gCais around the river
Fergus in modern day Co. Clare, where the family had their seat of power.
The Ó Gráda were among the first, in the year 1543, to surrender
their lands to the English crown and be granted title under the English
system, and from then on the heads of the Ó Gráda family
acted very much in favour of the English interest in Ireland. For a reason
which is unclear, the name became confused and mixed with Brady/O’Brady
after this period. Ó Gráda remains most prevalent in Munster
and Connacht, and is quite common there.
Gillen is relatively straightforward to explain. Ó Gilín
is the original form, the Ó having been dropped over time, and
the name is based on the adjective geal, its diminutive form making in
this gilín, to give the meaning ‘little bright one’.
It was very probably a term of endearment and is reminiscent of the great
Aisling poem written in the eighteenth century by Aogán Ó
Rathaile, Gile na Gile / Brightness of Brightness, which is how he describes
the vision, representing Ireland, which appears to him in the form of
a young maiden. The surname is most common in Connacht.
McMenamin / McMenemy
McMenamin and McMenemy are both forms of the one surname, which is based
on the noun meanma, meaning courage, eagerness or high spirits. The modern
day variance in spelling is merely a different rendering of the noun into
the genitive after mac – one choosing mac meanman, and the other
mac meanma. Meanma is still in use in the language today – tá
mé in airde meanma – I’m in a good mood, in good spirits.
The surname has its origins in Tyrone and Donegal.
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